Critics Consensus: The Expendables 2 Is (Mostly) Big, Dumb Fun

Plus, ParaNorman is Certified Fresh, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is sweet but weird, and Sparkle is predictable but strong.

This week at the movies, we've got macho mercenaries (The Expendables 2, starring Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham); a zombified community (ParaNorman, with voice work by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Casey Affleck); an arboreal child (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton); and a troubled songstress (Sparkle, starring Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston). What do the critics have to say?

The Expendables 2

65%

You pretty much know what you're getting with The Expendables 2: a group of past-and-present action stars wisecracking and blowing stuff up real good. The surprise, say critics, is that this sequel tops its predecessor in just about every way; sure, it's dumb, loud, and a little too self-conscious, but it's got enough muscular action and funny one-liners to delight the popcorn crowd. Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) has a seemingly straightforward task for the Expendables, whose ranks include Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, and, this time out, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But when the plan goes awry, our heroes seek revenge against a certain Belgian baddie. The pundits say The Expendables 2 isn't the most disciplined movie on the planet, but it's undeniably fun to see these aging warriors dish out punishment. (Check out this week's Total Recall, in which we count down Schwarzenegger's best-reviewed movies.)

ParaNorman

87%

With Coraline, the stop-motion animation wizards at LAIKA pulled off a tricky mix of the whimsical and the macabre. Critics say they've got another winner with ParaNorman, the witty, poignant, visually stunning tale of a small town suffering from a zombie infestation. Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a young misfit with the ability to communicate with the spirits, which comes in handy when zombies and other assorted ghouls threaten his community; soon, however, Norman finds that his powers are severely tested. The pundits say the Certified Fresh ParaNorman doesn't have the strongest narrative, but it's teeming with invention, reveling in visual set-pieces that are by turns strange, funny, scary, and touching. (Check out the Five Favorite Films of directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell.)

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

33%

At first glance, The Odd Life of Timothy Green looks to be the kind of movie they rarely make these days -- an old-school, feel-good live-action family fantasy. Unfortunately, critics say that while the film is sweet and well-meaning, it squanders its terrific cast on a sappy, thin plot. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton star as a couple that desperately want a child, and their prayers are seemingly answered when a strange boy knocks on their door one stormy night. But where did this strange lad come from? And why does he have leaves sprouting from his legs? The pundits say The Odd Life of Timothy Green never finds a consistent tone, and the result, while gentle and pleasant, is also overly sentimental and sometimes inexplicably weird.

Sparkle

57%

As a descriptor, "melodramatic" is often used in the pejorative sense nowadays, but there's something to be said for predictable entertainment infused with conviction. Take Sparkle: critics say this rags-to-riches musical drama has an ancient plot and some slack storytelling, but it's also got a solid cast, great music, and plenty of energy. Jordin Sparks stars as Sparkle, who sings with her sisters in a Motown-style girl group. Can she avoid the pitfalls that ensnared her disillusioned mother (Whitney Houston), who missed her chance to hit it big? The pundits say Sparkle is pretty formulaic stuff, but the tunes are superb, and the performances -- particularly Houston in her final role -- are delivered with passion and sincerity.

Also opening this week in limited release:

Comments

Jake Cecena

Jake Cecena

Yes to The Expendables 2 and ParaNorman.

"Meh" to Sparkle.

No to The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

Aug 16 - 04:48 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

12,000 R-T users gave ParaNorman the combined score of 76% as opposed to the 86 % combined total given by critics. 36,000 R-T users combined gave THE EXPENDABLES a 90% and 63 reviewers combined gave it a 65%

Aug 17 - 02:31 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

:ots of odd little films this week. "Cosmopolis" is the one I'm most eager to see. "Compliance" has potential. "Chicken with Plums" is from the director of "Persopolis". "Robot and Frank" sounds strange. I only wish it were a horror film, like a robot "Monkey Shines". Speaking of which, I've heard "Awakening" is effective, and I look forward to that. "Side by Side" is butter for cinephiles, just as any film with both Deneuve and Sagnier is butter for Franco-femmephiles (check out "8 Women" sometime). I don't believe I'll be watching any film with a drug dealer named "Sprinkles" in it, even if he's played by Tracy Morgan, the go-to black guy for screenwriters who think drug dealers have names like Sprinkles.

I usually don't advocate downloading, but if you want to do yourself a favor, get Aretha Franklin's original theme song from "Sparkle" from '76, produced by Curtis Mayfield. One of her very finest performances. I'll be watching "Expendables" soon enough, probably with fellow bros and strong libation. How bad can it be? (Oh right, the first one) "Paranorman" looks good to me, but I can wait for video.

Aug 16 - 05:33 PM

Premo Beat

John Noto

What about drug users named Bubbles?

Aug 16 - 11:12 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Good one. Seriously, The Wire is amazing.

Aug 17 - 12:18 AM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

The Wire is suffocating-Hell excellently acted and scripted and produced BARRAGE of bleak hopelessness.

Aug 17 - 02:32 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Michael Jackson was drugging his chimp?

Aug 17 - 09:23 AM

Corr

Alexander Sciury

I want to see The Expendables 2,looks like good fun.
When I first saw Paranorman I thought it looked kind of stupid,but after watching some trailers,I really want to go see it now.

Aug 16 - 05:35 PM

Bradley J.

Bradley J

ParaNorman looks awesome and I've been waiting for that forever. Can't wait to see it!! No to everything else.

Aug 16 - 06:32 PM

Jaxx Raxor

Adam Jones

This looks like to be the biggest weekend of August, with Expendables 2 likely pulling in at least $50 million if not more, and perhaps Paranorman being in second with good reviews. Sparkle will appeal to African American women (and others who love Whitney Houston) although it may skew a bit younger than most films that aim for the black female demographic. Timothy Green will probably crash a burn: that film has competition for the family crowd from Paranorman (although the latter isn't as approriate for real young children) and it's too typical and sappy to be really appealing.

Aug 16 - 06:39 PM

Michael Turnbill

Michael Turnbill

would love to see Cosmoplis, the awakening, robot & frank, and compliance this weekend but my theaters never get these films.

Aug 16 - 08:12 PM

Sean D.

Sean D

I know that feel, bro. :(

Aug 18 - 07:02 AM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

My bet is on ParaNorman taking home the gold this weekend. Expendables is plain cheesy, and Odd Life of Timothy Green is lame Disney live-action crap (as is most of their non-animated films).

Aug 16 - 08:38 PM

Vincent Fissore

Vincent Fissore

Never underestimate the ability of the American moviegoer to prefer explosions, former action heroes on their tenth round of Botox and the occasional Chuck Norris fact over stop-motion animation.

Aug 16 - 11:32 PM

Ken Wolfson

Ken Wolfson

This may convince my father to see the expendables 2 with me.

Aug 16 - 08:51 PM

Premo Beat

John Noto

What about drug users named Bubbles?

Aug 16 - 11:12 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Good one. Seriously, The Wire is amazing.

Aug 17 - 12:18 AM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

The Wire is suffocating-Hell excellently acted and scripted and produced BARRAGE of bleak hopelessness.

Aug 17 - 02:32 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Michael Jackson was drugging his chimp?

Aug 17 - 09:23 AM

Vincent Fissore

Vincent Fissore

Never underestimate the ability of the American moviegoer to prefer explosions, former action heroes on their tenth round of Botox and the occasional Chuck Norris fact over stop-motion animation.

Aug 16 - 11:32 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

I wish Compliance and Cosmopolis were wider releases, they look the most interesting this week. I might catch The Expendables 2 down the line if my friends want to have a boys night out and see something stupid and ridiculous.

Aug 17 - 12:15 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Good one. Seriously, The Wire is amazing.

Aug 17 - 12:18 AM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

The Wire is suffocating-Hell excellently acted and scripted and produced BARRAGE of bleak hopelessness.

Aug 17 - 02:32 PM

Bertram Krogh

Bertram Krogh

I am looking forward to The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Compliance, Robot & Frank, Why Stop Now and Cosmopolis.
Will probably watch The Expendables 2 and ParaNorman just for the sake of it, they are the top films this week.

Aug 17 - 04:06 AM

Hans M.

Hans Morgenstern

There's something rotten in the state of film criticism when films get fresh ratings for being "(Mostly) Big, Dumb Fun." That would make it a big avoid in my book. Looking forward to: Cosmopolis and Robert & Frank and even ParaNorman (loved Coraline).

Aug 17 - 04:58 AM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Agree it sounds awful.

Aug 17 - 02:49 PM

Michael Keppy

Michael Keppy

Yes god forbid anyone have fun watching a movie!

Aug 17 - 07:59 PM

Billy B.

Billy Barnett

Expendables 2 and ParaNorman of course.
Robot & Frank looks interesting I love robot movies.

Aug 17 - 05:50 AM

Bloody Mathias

Mathias N/A

I'm far more excited about ParaNorman than any other August release.

Gave Coraline an 8.5/10 and I'm expecting Norman to keep up with her.

Aug 17 - 06:24 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Expendables reminds me more of a Fast and Furious Film then any kind of 80s 90s action movie I grew up with. only instead of a pissing competition about cars it's about guns. My guns Bigger GRRRR, NO MY GUN IS BIGGER GRRRRR, DOUBLE ENTENDRE GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!

Derek Luke is in Sparkle. A great younger actor from a lot of lower budget films since there is no place for a talented Young Black guy in a big blockbuster unless he is part of some Team Diversity Squad (like in Captain America, hint...he was the black Guy).

I hope Paranorman is better then Monster House. Monster house was hyped up big time by Critics and wasn't all that great. Wasn't bad, but I'd never willingly watch it again. Id rather watch the movies it was ripping off.

Cosmopolis is also a film I would like to see and Chicken with Plums I got to add to the list. Director of Persopolis you say? I enjoyed Persopolis very much! Thanks for the heads up again Janson!

Aug 17 - 08:53 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I slightly misspoke. I misspelled "Persepolis" as "Persopolis" first of all, but it's actually from the same writing/directing pair, Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi. But, yeah, it's their second film together after "Persepolis", so that makes it absolutely worth a look.

Aug 17 - 09:21 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I slightly misspoke. I misspelled "Persepolis" as "Persopolis" first of all, but it's actually from the same writing/directing pair, Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi. But, yeah, it's their second film together after "Persepolis", so that makes it absolutely worth a look.

Aug 17 - 09:21 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Michael Jackson was drugging his chimp?

Aug 17 - 09:23 AM

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